This is the web version of our weekly Future Food newsletter. In it we cover the alternative protein landscape, from plant-based meat to cellular agriculture to insects. Subscribe here!

Plant-based meat companies are leveraging technology to create a product so good it makes eating meat from an animal unnecessary. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are both doing an excellent job of it so far, and will continue creating new iterations that taste even closer and closer to the real thing.

But where does cell-based meat — still likely a few years from our plates — fit into the equation? If plant-based meat tastes so good people will willingly choose it over the real thing, do we even need to bother making meat in a lab?

This week I tackled that question and zoomed out to take a broad picture of the alternative meat ecosystem, now and in 10 years. Spoiler: Yes, I think that cultured meat has a place in our future diets and is worth pursuing. See if I can convince you.

Photo: New Harvest.

*Is* plant-based meat actually healthy?

My boss Michael Wolf posted that piece on Linkedin got some interesting responses including one from Sean Butler, the Managing Director of LIDD Supply Chain Intelligence and former SVP of Retail at the meal kit startup Chef’d. He said:

I think that consumers may come to see the current crop of plant-based [meat] as “chemical-based” in the future, creating a strong opening for cellular meat, which can be billed as a (relatively) natural and sustainable alternative. Time will tell!

I’d always assumed consumers actually felt the opposite way. After all, plant-based meat is chiefly made up of recognizable ingredients, like soy and pea protein, whereas cell-based meat is more of a mystery — at least for those of us without a cell biology degree.

But just because we know the basic ingredients in plant-based meat doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more healthy. Many meat alternatives are quite high in fat (in order to mimic the juiciness of real meat), and are heavily processed to nail the texture. Despite this, plant-based meat companies like Beyond and Impossible typically market their products as healthy alternatives — which is one of the reasons why flexitarians are flocking to them in droves.

In the rapidly evolving world of alternative protein, it can be confusing for consumers to delineate healthy and non-healthy, natural and non-natural, meat and non-meat.

Mission (actually) Impossible

I got in a bit of a news kerfuffle this week. Spurred by a piece in the Washington Post, I wrote a story about how Burger King will start selling the Impossible Whopper in Sweden.

As it turns out… that’s not the case. A food tech-connected source in Sweden reached out to let us know that the new plant-based burger to be sold in BK is not, in fact, from Impossible and has nothing to do with the famous “bleeding” burger. A rep at Impossible later confirmed.

There’s one good reason that Impossible isn’t available in Europe yet, even while their competitor Beyond Meat is: heme. Impossible produces heme through genetic engineering. While we’re cool with that in the States, the EU is very hesitant about what sort of genetically engineered foods it allows to be sold. That’s one reason why I was surprised to hear that Impossible was moving into Sweden so quickly.

So which plant-based burger can Swedes expect to order from their local BK? According to an email from Iwo Zakowski, the General Manager of Burger King Sweden and Denmark, the new Unbelievable Whopper will be made with a plant-based burger composed of soy and wheat protein. He didn’t give the name of the producer but clarified that it wouldn’t be Nestlé’s Incredible Burger, which is on menus in McDonald’s Germany.

If you happen to be in Sweden and are able to take a taste, let us know what you think, wouldja?

Sausage party

It may not be in Sweden, but Impossible made some other expansion moves in the U.S. this week. They’re now at Little Caesar’s, whose new Impossible Supreme pie is topped with sausage made of Impossible’s “bleeding” plant-based meat.

Interestingly, this marks the first time the company has developed a unique, non-beef product for a restaurant partnership. Which makes me think that we’ll soon see a wave of new plant-based sausage products coming to market. Beyond’s already there, as are some veterans in the alterna-meat space like Field Roast and Lightlife. Now Impossible has followed suit. Maybe next they’ll roll out some plant-based breakfast sausage patties, or bratwursts for the grill?

Ocean Hugger Foods’ new plant-based eel sushi.

Protein new ’round the web

  • Ocean Hugger Foods, who make a vegan raw fish substitute from tomatoes, unveiled a new plant-based “eel” sushi at this weekend’s National Restaurant Association Show.
  • Livekindly: In the U.K., supermarket chain Aldi is expanding its line of private label plant-based products with “sausage” rolls and “chicken” burgers.
  • Nation’s Restaurant News: Pret A Manger is buying British competitor Eat and turning all of its locations into Veggie Prets, which only serve (you guessed it) vegan and vegetarian food.
  • malaymail: In Singapore, food delivery giant Deliveroo will offer dishes from eight restaurant brands made from Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat.

Eat well,
Catherine

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